NOTE TO READER: This is an attempt at a two-part blog. I felt that the entire piece was too long for one post. Please enjoy Part I; Part II will be out shortly.
I was standing outside the coliseum holding my candle and my sign. I hadn’t had time to make my own sign, which is what I prefer, and was holding one that said something about elephants in chains. It was my first protest after having moved to Denver a few months earlier and I was excited to see so many people speaking for the voiceless at yet another circus demonstration against Ringling Brothers and their continual maltreatment of animals.
All across the US there were candlelight vigils going on that same night with thousands of people gathering to speak for the voiceless, well, one voiceless. These people were not protesting the maltreatment of animals in circuses yet were remembering a young college student named Matthew Sheppard who had been savagely beaten that week in Laramie, Wyoming.
I had attended a protest two days earlier at the state capitol in Denver, joined with several hundred others who were outraged by the beating. I was most likely the only person who attended both the circus protest and the gathering against hate at the state capitol. The two don’t mix. Animal rights activists speak out against torture and cruelty toward animals. Gay and lesbian activists speak out against hate crimes and violence against gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender people.
Back to the moment, I was kindly reminding people entering the circus of the lifelong saga of elephants who are kept in chains a large part of their lives. Many elephants had died in Ringling Brother’s captivity and sadder yet many of the elephants were born free, captured, and now were performing throughout the US to satisfy the entertainment needs of a carefree society.
Matthew Sheppard was 21 when he met two men at a local bar in the college town of Laramie. The two were locals, apparently had some drinks with Matthew, and then went for a ride. On the outskirts of Laramie all three got out of the truck and the two men proceeded to beat Matthew unconscious. This all happened about two hours northwest of where I was living with my male partner.
“A life in chains” I politely said as more people walked by.
“Faggot”. Faggot was a response, not common but certainly not uncommon. It seems the worst thing one can call a protestor is a faggot.
“He was a faggot,” exclaimed one of Matthew Sheppard’s torturers.
“Please don’t go in” I pleaded.